Tuesday, May 13, 2008
The Grass is Singing
While the title of Doris Lessing's early novel, published in 1950, sounds rather lyrical the story is anything but that. This is the story of Mary and Richard Turner, who farm the land in South Africa in the forties when apartheid is the rule. Mary is an intelligent woman who makes a a fateful choice in Richard for her husband. Living with Richard, who is ineffectual and unsuited to the life of farming, soon leads Mary to depression. She grows progressively bitter and takes her frustration out on the black servants that help run the farm. In spite of the darkness of the story, a tragedy that verges close to melodrama, the writing of the author in her first novel is lucid and imaginative. Lessing plumbs the psychology of Mary's depression and her marriage with Richard effectively, building suspense all the while even though the reader knows the outcome from the first page. It is the prose of Doris Lessing and the clarity of the structure of her novel that makes this one of the best first novels that I have ever read.
The Grass is Singing by Doris Lessing. Perennial Classic by HarperCollins, New York. 2000 (1950)